Sustainability. What is it good for?

During the past few months I've heard the word used in various ways many times. Sustainable Agriculture, sustainable growth, sustainable practices. Sustainable development. Sustainability. Sustainable. I finally started to ask myself, what's all the hype around it, and what does it really mean anyway?

I decided to first browse through my favorite writing companion that keeps me company during long days in front of my laptop, the Oxford "Color" Dictionary Thesaurus, to see how the internationally famed university press described sustainable. Sustainable adj. (of development etc.) able to be continued without damage to the environment. Ok, so something that can live on in the world without hurting the environment. What else? Wikipedia cited a definition of sustainable development from the Brundtland Commision - led by the former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland - as a development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." It also goes on to say that sustainability relates to the continuity of economic, social, institutional and environmental aspects of human society, as well as the non-human environment. One last note, Sustainability is one of the four Core Concepts behind the 2007 Universal Forum of Cultures. Very interesting. But enough with the formal definitions. Last week I was given a tip on an organization that has set off on a 38-day journey across the U.S. to promote sustainability throughout our many great communities.

The organization is Sustainable Table, a group that celebrates the sustainable food movement, educates consumers on food-related issues and works to build community through food. It's most recent mission? To embark on a U.S. road trip dubbed The Eat Well Guided Tour of America, which kicked off on August 2nd in West Hollywood, CA.

The tour consists of a few Sustainable Table staff members, a tour bus and a map that is taking them on an adventure through some of the best sustainable farms and restaurants that the U.S. has to offer. And, as duly noted from their website, to find the best pie ever!

I'm not sure what they've experienced in terms of great pie thus far on the tour, but I think it's safe to say that the ST team received a great breakfast and an interesting time at one of their stops along the way. I attended the breakfast at Bob's Red Mill last Friday. I arrived at the unmistakable Bob's Red Mill store in Milwaukie, entered the front door and was greeted by a cheery staff ready to guide me to the breakfast. I've seen Bob's Red Mill products all over my local grocery stores and am embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize the company was operated in my own backyard! Founded in 1972, BRM has been dedicated to manufacturing natural foods in a natural way. The family at BRM pride themselves on being proponents of including stone ground whole grain products into every meal of the day.

At breakfast I had the honor of sitting right next to Bob himself! And he really does look like the photo on his product's packaging. He also told a story of how the BRM plant in Redding, CA (where the original business began) suffered a fire in 1988. It was then that he had to make the decision to either rebuild or quit altogether. He decided to go on and partnered with Dennis Gilliam, who is still with him today. Bob and Dennis attended a food tradeshow in Anaheim, CA in 1989 with no sales person, not even a sales sheet and a booth that was stuck in the back hall of the convention center. BRM was one of five companies that offered a sustainable solution for customers. Other health companies at the tradeshow caught wind of that and the rest is history.

That Friday I got an amateur's introduction to sustainability through the mouths of northwest farmers, bakers and Bob himself. And on that day I saw, first-hand, how growers, farmers, food producers and retailers all work together in one region to produce good, natural food. And that day I learned the importance of practicing sustainability to continue the domino effect of keeping regional businesses moving, the freshest ingredients growing and the availability and delivery of the highest quality ingredients coming to local communities.
Ever since the breakfast I've paid more attention to products, restaurants and even wineries that claim to be sustainable. It's out there - it's everywhere! So the next time you're out and about, look for it. And know that sustainability is good for a lot!

1 comment:

Sheila Saltmarsh said...

I actually eat BRM steel oats! I knew that they were local, but I wasn't aware of their restaurant. I would love to try it sometime. I'll keep my eyes open for sustainable foods.

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